At-Home Repairs

Not nearly as cool as Jesse’s repair, but following his post, I thought I’d share these photos from StyleForum member Ghost01. These were recently posted in a thread dedicated to RRL, which as many people know, is Ralph Lauren’s workwear line. RRL was set up in 1993, and is heavily inspired by Ralph Lauren’s private ranch, which he runs with his wife Ricky (hence the name RRL). That means lots of American workwear inspired by country and vintage clothing. You can see the ranch in an interview Oprah once did with Ralph Lauren and his family. (Warning: it’s beautiful). 

Anyway, Ghost01 had an RRL shirt and a pair of jeans that were falling apart. The elbow on the shirt had worn through and there was a hole in the back pocket of the jeans from where his wallet is usually kept. His solution? Patch up both holes, at home using his own sewing skills, with an old RRL pocket square that he had laying around. I think the results look pretty great - a practical solution that’s also in keeping with RRL’s aesthetic. 

The top photo is of Ghost01 in an RRL jacket. That piece hasn’t been repaired, but I’m posting it because I think all three pieces - the jacket, the newly repaired shirt, and the newly repaired jeans - go together quite nicely for a casual look. 

Conditioning Leather Jackets
Folks who have read our blog for a while are probably familiar with the importance of treating leather shoes to conditioner every once in a while. Leather is a skin and needs to be routinely moisturized, otherwise it can dry out and crack. The same actually goes for almost any leather products, including leather jackets. Only here, you may need a different conditioner. Lexol, for example, is perfectly fine for shoes, but can be too watery for garments. If you apply it to a jacket, it can seep through the shell and stain the lining.
For garments, many leather care experts recommend Pecard. To figure out which of their products you need, you’ll first have to figure out what kind of material you’re working with. Most leather jackets are made from one of four types of skins – goat, lamb, cow, and horse – and each can have their own “treatments.”
Which Leather Conditioner to Buy
Generally speaking, lambskin and goatskin will be relatively lightweight and thin, while cowhide and horsehide will be thick and heavy (lambskin can goatskin can also sometimes be thick, but this isn’t common). Just check the thickness and weight of your piece to figure out the skin; it should be fairly obvious.
To figure out how your leather has been treated, you can place a droplet of water on the surface and let it sit for thirty seconds. If there’s a dark spot when you wipe it away (don’t worry, it’ll eventually disappear), it’s most likely an oil-tanned leather; if there’s no dark spot, it’s probably coated. Similarly, you can gently scratch the surface with your fingernail. If it leaves a mark, it’s oil-tanned; if it doesn’t, it’s coated.
For coated leathers, lambskins, and goatskins, spread a small amount of Pecard’s Fashion Leather Lotion with a lint-free cloth, and give it ten minutes to dry before wearing. For oil-tanned leathers made from cowhide or horsehide, apply a light coat of Weatherproof Dressing and give your jacket twelve to twenty-four hours to absorb the conditioner. Then, buff off any excess with a smooth, lint-free cloth (an old t-shirt will do), and you’re good to go. Their neutral dressing is perhaps most popular among leather jacket enthusiasts, but you can use black and brown to help cover any minor scratches or scuffs, or to help restore color. Just use a sparing amount, and as always, test the conditioner on some inconspicuous spot first, to make sure it’s OK for your specific garment.
Tip for Vintage Shoppers
Note, if you’re out thrifting for a leather jacket, you’ll probably come across a few that look old, neglected, and dry. So long as the leather isn’t cracked, you can sometimes restore these pieces with a few caring treatments of Pecard. This is a great way to pick up something nice that everyone else has passed on.

Conditioning Leather Jackets

Folks who have read our blog for a while are probably familiar with the importance of treating leather shoes to conditioner every once in a while. Leather is a skin and needs to be routinely moisturized, otherwise it can dry out and crack. The same actually goes for almost any leather products, including leather jackets. Only here, you may need a different conditioner. Lexol, for example, is perfectly fine for shoes, but can be too watery for garments. If you apply it to a jacket, it can seep through the shell and stain the lining.

For garments, many leather care experts recommend Pecard. To figure out which of their products you need, you’ll first have to figure out what kind of material you’re working with. Most leather jackets are made from one of four types of skins – goat, lamb, cow, and horse – and each can have their own “treatments.”

Which Leather Conditioner to Buy

Generally speaking, lambskin and goatskin will be relatively lightweight and thin, while cowhide and horsehide will be thick and heavy (lambskin can goatskin can also sometimes be thick, but this isn’t common). Just check the thickness and weight of your piece to figure out the skin; it should be fairly obvious.

To figure out how your leather has been treated, you can place a droplet of water on the surface and let it sit for thirty seconds. If there’s a dark spot when you wipe it away (don’t worry, it’ll eventually disappear), it’s most likely an oil-tanned leather; if there’s no dark spot, it’s probably coated. Similarly, you can gently scratch the surface with your fingernail. If it leaves a mark, it’s oil-tanned; if it doesn’t, it’s coated.

For coated leathers, lambskins, and goatskins, spread a small amount of Pecard’s Fashion Leather Lotion with a lint-free cloth, and give it ten minutes to dry before wearing. For oil-tanned leathers made from cowhide or horsehide, apply a light coat of Weatherproof Dressing and give your jacket twelve to twenty-four hours to absorb the conditioner. Then, buff off any excess with a smooth, lint-free cloth (an old t-shirt will do), and you’re good to go. Their neutral dressing is perhaps most popular among leather jacket enthusiasts, but you can use black and brown to help cover any minor scratches or scuffs, or to help restore color. Just use a sparing amount, and as always, test the conditioner on some inconspicuous spot first, to make sure it’s OK for your specific garment.

Tip for Vintage Shoppers

Note, if you’re out thrifting for a leather jacket, you’ll probably come across a few that look old, neglected, and dry. So long as the leather isn’t cracked, you can sometimes restore these pieces with a few caring treatments of Pecard. This is a great way to pick up something nice that everyone else has passed on.

Five Tips For Polishing Shoes
I spent a little bit of time this weekend polishing an old pair of chukkas of mine. Though their pebble grain texture makes them feel more like fall/ winter boots, I’ve been wearing them a lot this summer. They just go too well with jeans.
Polishing shoes is simple enough. Take out the shoelaces and insert some shoe trees, so you have a hard surface to work on. Next, use an old rag to apply some leather conditioner (Saphir is nice, but I mostly use Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner and Cleaner). Then, apply your cream polish with a dauber (I use Saphir for polish, which our advertiser The Hanger Project sells, but you can also get nice results with Meltonian). Finally, brush your shoes out with a large horsehair brush to raise a shine. That, more or less, is the basic process of how to shine shoes. 
There are some things that I think can help improve your technique, however.
1. Brush your shoes down with a large horsehair brush before applying any conditioner. This will remove any specks of dust or dirt that can otherwise mar the leather.
2. I add a layer of wax polish on most of my shoes (almost everything except loafers, camp mocs, and boat shoes). This gives them a higher shine and an extra layer of protection. If you decide to use wax polish, brush down your shoes with a big horsehair brush first. This will even out your cream polish and give you a nicer surface to build a wax layer upon.
3. Also, if you use a wax polish, wipe your shoes down with a leather cleaner every once in a while, as wax can build up and make it difficult for your leather to absorb conditioner. Don’t go crazy though. Leather cleaner is powerful stuff, and you don’t want to damage your shoes’ uppers by scrubbing. Some gentle swipes with a soft cloth will do.
4. Most people try to match the color of their shoe polish as closely as possible to their shoes’ uppers. I actually often go one shade darker, as I find that helps build a bit more “depth” in the color, and makes for a more interesting patina. I’ve also heard of people using black polish for dark brown shoes and navy polish for black shoes. Choose according to your taste, but don’t be afraid to experiment a little. 
5. Finally, the most important tip of all: Always wait a while in between each of your steps. Wait for the conditioner to soak in before you apply cream polish. Wait for the cream polish to dry before you apply wax. Wait for the wax polish to settle before you buff everything out with a large brush. This is not only better for your shoes but it also makes the process of buffing much easier.
(Pictured above: Saphir cream and wax polishes, Edoya horsehair brush,  Crockett & Jones’ Brecon chukkas)

Five Tips For Polishing Shoes

I spent a little bit of time this weekend polishing an old pair of chukkas of mine. Though their pebble grain texture makes them feel more like fall/ winter boots, I’ve been wearing them a lot this summer. They just go too well with jeans.

Polishing shoes is simple enough. Take out the shoelaces and insert some shoe trees, so you have a hard surface to work on. Next, use an old rag to apply some leather conditioner (Saphir is nice, but I mostly use Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner and Cleaner). Then, apply your cream polish with a dauber (I use Saphir for polish, which our advertiser The Hanger Project sells, but you can also get nice results with Meltonian). Finally, brush your shoes out with a large horsehair brush to raise a shine. That, more or less, is the basic process of how to shine shoes. 

There are some things that I think can help improve your technique, however.

1. Brush your shoes down with a large horsehair brush before applying any conditioner. This will remove any specks of dust or dirt that can otherwise mar the leather.

2. I add a layer of wax polish on most of my shoes (almost everything except loafers, camp mocs, and boat shoes). This gives them a higher shine and an extra layer of protection. If you decide to use wax polish, brush down your shoes with a big horsehair brush first. This will even out your cream polish and give you a nicer surface to build a wax layer upon.

3. Also, if you use a wax polish, wipe your shoes down with a leather cleaner every once in a while, as wax can build up and make it difficult for your leather to absorb conditioner. Don’t go crazy though. Leather cleaner is powerful stuff, and you don’t want to damage your shoes’ uppers by scrubbing. Some gentle swipes with a soft cloth will do.

4. Most people try to match the color of their shoe polish as closely as possible to their shoes’ uppers. I actually often go one shade darker, as I find that helps build a bit more “depth” in the color, and makes for a more interesting patina. I’ve also heard of people using black polish for dark brown shoes and navy polish for black shoes. Choose according to your taste, but don’t be afraid to experiment a little. 

5. Finally, the most important tip of all: Always wait a while in between each of your steps. Wait for the conditioner to soak in before you apply cream polish. Wait for the cream polish to dry before you apply wax. Wait for the wax polish to settle before you buff everything out with a large brush. This is not only better for your shoes but it also makes the process of buffing much easier.

(Pictured above: Saphir cream and wax polishes, Edoya horsehair brush,  Crockett & Jones’ Brecon chukkas)

Should You Use Sole Protectors?
A long time ago, when I first started buying high-quality footwear, I used to have my cobbler put sole protectors on all my shoes. Sole protectors are thin rubber sheets that can be put at the bottom of soles. They protect your shoes from wear and thus limit the number of times you need to have them resoled. 
I did this for years until I realized that it wasn’t saving me much money. Having protectors put on usually costs about $25. Having soles replaced usually costs about $50-75. I found that protectors lasted about a year and a half, while leather soles could go for about three to four years. Obviously, your mileage may vary, as a lot will depend on how often you wear your shoes and what type of surfaces you walk on, but from my experience, the savings were minimal, if there were any at all.
So, what are the reasons why someone might want to get sole protectors? Well, for one, they arguably provide slightly more traction, especially on smooth, indoor floors. They could also be more economical if you don’t have someone in your area who can resole your shoes for a reasonable fee. If you send your shoes back to the original manufacturer, or to certain shoe refurbishing shops, you can pay anywhere from  $125 to $300. That typically comes with more service - your uppers can be refurbished, and you might get a free pair of shoe trees or something - but if you don’t need those things, you’re effectively paying ~$125-300 for a resoling. That’s significantly more than the $50-75 a local cobbler might charge (assuming you have someone you trust).
Shoes can also be resoled only so many times, and every resoling comes with a bit of risk. Almost all welted shoes, for example, are made with a linen holdfast called “gemming.” Some experts have noted that this can rip during a resole, and once this happens, the gemming can’t be easily repositioned, which means you shoes will walk out of shape. Thus, the fewer resolings you need to do, the better.
The downside is that sole protectors are a bit ugly, especially the ones made by Topy. Admittedly, nobody ever really sees the bottom of your shoes, but sometimes they do if you cross your legs (or become the President of the United States and put your feet on the table, right in front of a photographer, as shown above). Plus, if your sole protectors are not correctly applied, moisture can seep in, which in turn can cause rotting. Certain companies, such as Edward Green, also claim that rubber protectors prevent your soles from “breathing,” which in turn can shorten their life. (I’m skeptical of this, but you can take it for what it’s worth.)
In the end, whether or not you should add sole protectors is up to you, and a lot will depend on various factors, but at least now you know what are some of the factors you should consider. The value is not obvious. 

Should You Use Sole Protectors?

A long time ago, when I first started buying high-quality footwear, I used to have my cobbler put sole protectors on all my shoes. Sole protectors are thin rubber sheets that can be put at the bottom of soles. They protect your shoes from wear and thus limit the number of times you need to have them resoled. 

I did this for years until I realized that it wasn’t saving me much money. Having protectors put on usually costs about $25. Having soles replaced usually costs about $50-75. I found that protectors lasted about a year and a half, while leather soles could go for about three to four years. Obviously, your mileage may vary, as a lot will depend on how often you wear your shoes and what type of surfaces you walk on, but from my experience, the savings were minimal, if there were any at all.

So, what are the reasons why someone might want to get sole protectors? Well, for one, they arguably provide slightly more traction, especially on smooth, indoor floors. They could also be more economical if you don’t have someone in your area who can resole your shoes for a reasonable fee. If you send your shoes back to the original manufacturer, or to certain shoe refurbishing shops, you can pay anywhere from  $125 to $300. That typically comes with more service - your uppers can be refurbished, and you might get a free pair of shoe trees or something - but if you don’t need those things, you’re effectively paying ~$125-300 for a resoling. That’s significantly more than the $50-75 a local cobbler might charge (assuming you have someone you trust).

Shoes can also be resoled only so many times, and every resoling comes with a bit of risk. Almost all welted shoes, for example, are made with a linen holdfast called “gemming.” Some experts have noted that this can rip during a resole, and once this happens, the gemming can’t be easily repositioned, which means you shoes will walk out of shape. Thus, the fewer resolings you need to do, the better.

The downside is that sole protectors are a bit ugly, especially the ones made by Topy. Admittedly, nobody ever really sees the bottom of your shoes, but sometimes they do if you cross your legs (or become the President of the United States and put your feet on the table, right in front of a photographer, as shown above). Plus, if your sole protectors are not correctly applied, moisture can seep in, which in turn can cause rotting. Certain companies, such as Edward Green, also claim that rubber protectors prevent your soles from “breathing,” which in turn can shorten their life. (I’m skeptical of this, but you can take it for what it’s worth.)

In the end, whether or not you should add sole protectors is up to you, and a lot will depend on various factors, but at least now you know what are some of the factors you should consider. The value is not obvious. 

Q and Answer: What Shoe Care Products Should You Consider (Part Two)
Over the weekend, one of our readers asked us for our opinion on which shoe care products he should consider buying, so we started with what’s most important. Today, we’ll cover some stuff that’s less essential, but can still be kind of nice to have if you’re really getting into shoe care. 
1. Cleaners: It’s good to wipe down your shoes every once in a while with a cleaner if you use wax polishes. Doing so helps removes build-up and allows the leather to best take in conditioner. Lexol and Saphir Reno’Mat work really well as general purpose cleaners, while Saddle Soap is a bit better for rugged workboots. When using these, make sure you use a sparing amount and go gently. This stuff can be powerful. 
Saphir also makes a special cleaner for suede shoes, though much of stain prevention can be done by spraying your suede shoes down with Allen Edmonds’ Waterproofer. 
2. Welt Brush: These are handy for brushing out the dirt that accumulates in the welt (the area where the sole meets the upper). A Suitable Wardrobe sells one made from pig bristle, but you could also just use a stiff bristled toothbrush. 
3. Shoeshine Mat: Shoeshine mats are completely superfluous, but I really like them. They’re used to protect the surface of your table as you work on your shoes. Obviously, newspaper is a much cheaper solution, but if you don’t mind spending the money, La Cordonnerie Anglaise and Valmour make some really nice leather options.
4. Solvent dispensers: If you want to bull your shoes, you have to put a little bit of water on your polishing cloth to build a shine. One way is to do this is to fill up a very small cap with water and dip your cloth into it every once in a while. Another is to lightly spit (a bit gross, admittedly, but this is where the term “spit shine” comes from). I personally use this solvent dispenser, which you can see in action here. Amazon has a bunch of other options as well. 
5. Deer bone: Deer bones are used help smooth out any small, superficial scuffs on shell cordovan. I own and use one, but unless you take some kind of pleasure in obscure shoe care techniques, I think you can get equally good results with the back of a spoon. 
6. Chamois cloth: I like to dust off my shoes before putting them on. Allen Edmonds’s horsehair brush is good for this, as is Saphir’s chamois cloth. 
7. Shoe bags: Speaking of dust, shoe bags are useful for keeping shoes dust free when they’re not in use. The company that made your shoes probably provided you with a free pair, but if you need replacements, our advertiser The Hanger Project and this seller on Amazon seem to have good options. 
8. Edge dressing: The edges of soles can get pretty scuffed up from wear, so every once in a while, it’s a good idea to “repaint” them. Saphir and Allen Edmonds make some pretty good tools for this. 
9. Boxes: Finally, you might need a box to hold all this stuff. I talked about a bunch of options in this post, but since writing that, I bought this box by Gerstner & Sons. I highly recommend them if you don’t mind spending the money. 

Q and Answer: What Shoe Care Products Should You Consider (Part Two)

Over the weekend, one of our readers asked us for our opinion on which shoe care products he should consider buying, so we started with what’s most important. Today, we’ll cover some stuff that’s less essential, but can still be kind of nice to have if you’re really getting into shoe care. 

1. Cleaners: It’s good to wipe down your shoes every once in a while with a cleaner if you use wax polishes. Doing so helps removes build-up and allows the leather to best take in conditioner. Lexol and Saphir Reno’Mat work really well as general purpose cleaners, while Saddle Soap is a bit better for rugged workboots. When using these, make sure you use a sparing amount and go gently. This stuff can be powerful. 

Saphir also makes a special cleaner for suede shoes, though much of stain prevention can be done by spraying your suede shoes down with Allen Edmonds’ Waterproofer

2. Welt Brush: These are handy for brushing out the dirt that accumulates in the welt (the area where the sole meets the upper). A Suitable Wardrobe sells one made from pig bristle, but you could also just use a stiff bristled toothbrush. 

3. Shoeshine Mat: Shoeshine mats are completely superfluous, but I really like them. They’re used to protect the surface of your table as you work on your shoes. Obviously, newspaper is a much cheaper solution, but if you don’t mind spending the money, La Cordonnerie Anglaise and Valmour make some really nice leather options.

4. Solvent dispensers: If you want to bull your shoes, you have to put a little bit of water on your polishing cloth to build a shine. One way is to do this is to fill up a very small cap with water and dip your cloth into it every once in a while. Another is to lightly spit (a bit gross, admittedly, but this is where the term “spit shine” comes from). I personally use this solvent dispenser, which you can see in action here. Amazon has a bunch of other options as well. 

5. Deer bone: Deer bones are used help smooth out any small, superficial scuffs on shell cordovan. I own and use one, but unless you take some kind of pleasure in obscure shoe care techniques, I think you can get equally good results with the back of a spoon. 

6. Chamois cloth: I like to dust off my shoes before putting them on. Allen Edmonds’s horsehair brush is good for this, as is Saphir’s chamois cloth

7. Shoe bags: Speaking of dust, shoe bags are useful for keeping shoes dust free when they’re not in use. The company that made your shoes probably provided you with a free pair, but if you need replacements, our advertiser The Hanger Project and this seller on Amazon seem to have good options. 

8. Edge dressing: The edges of soles can get pretty scuffed up from wear, so every once in a while, it’s a good idea to “repaint” them. Saphir and Allen Edmonds make some pretty good tools for this. 

9. Boxes: Finally, you might need a box to hold all this stuff. I talked about a bunch of options in this post, but since writing that, I bought this box by Gerstner & Sons. I highly recommend them if you don’t mind spending the money. 

Q and Answer: What Shoe Care Products Should You Consider (Part One)
Lookyoungspeakold writes us to ask: I just watched the PTO episode on shoes and am now working on picking up some shoe care supplies. What things do you guys recommend?
It’s probably best to break this answer into parts, so you know what’s important to have, and what’s just nice to have. Today, we’ll cover the important stuff.
1. Leather conditioner: Leather needs to be conditioned every once in a while, otherwise it’ll dry out and crack. For this, Saphir Renovateur is commonly said to be the best, but I’ve gotten equally good results with Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner & Cleaner. Some say you shouldn’t mix conditioners and cleaners (just as you shouldn’t mix shampoo and conditioner), but I’ve used this stuff for years and haven’t seen any ill effects. If you’re worried about it, you can turn to Lexol, who sells them in separate bottles, or get Venetian cream. 
For workboots, I really like Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP, which you can read about here, and if you have any exotics, Saphir makes a special conditioner called Reptan. 
2. Polishes and Waxes: To hide scuffs and build a shine, you’ll need an assortment of polishes and waxes. If you want to maintain your shoes’ original color, use a polish that best approximates it or go one shade lighter. To build a slightly more antiqued look over time, go with something a touch darker. For the most part, try to avoid neutrals, as they can sometimes build a white flakey residue. 
I use cream polish on all my shoes, but for any that need an extra layer of protection (e.g. winter boots) or a higher gloss finish (e.g. oxfords), I add a finishing layer of wax polish. 
Again, Saphir here is often said to be the best, and if you’re a shoe aficionado, these can feel a bit more fancy to use. You can get them from The Hanger Project (one of our advertisers), Exquisite Trimmings, A Suitable Wardrobe, and Gentlemen’s Footwear (the last of which is offering a free Saphir chamois cloth with any $50+ purchase of shoe care products this week). If Saphir is too expensive for you, however, I’ve gotten excellent results from Meltonian cream polishes and Lincoln waxes. 
3. Brushes: Obviously, to apply the creams and waxes, you’ll need some brushes. There’s some really nice stuff here by Edoya and Abbeyhorn, but they’re expensive. Check them out if you take a special interest in this stuff, but otherwise, know that you only really need a basic dauber and large horsehair brush, both of which you can buy for $5-15 from The Hanger Project and Allen Edmonds. 
4. Suede products: If you have suede shoes, you’ll want to get a couple of special products. First is a waterproofing spray, which will not only help protect your shoes from water, but also any stains that may come their way. A suede eraser can also be good for spot cleaning, and a suede brush is useful for rebuilding a nap. Suede brushes can come in crepe or wire. I really like the wire ones from Edoya, but Allen Edmonds has a much more affordable version for $6.50
5. Shoe trees and horns: Along with the leather conditioner, I think these last two products might be the most important to buy. First are cedar shoe trees, which you should always put into your shoes when you’re not wearing them. This will help maintain your shoes’ shape and minimize creases. You can buy them for about $11 a pair from Sierra Trading Post once you apply their DealFlyer coupons (they’re out of stock at the moment, but they’ll likely bring them back). Nordstrom Rack also sometimes has them in-store for about $12 a pair, and Jos A Bank will regularly do 3-for-1 deals. For boots, you’ll need something bigger to fill up the space. I recommend these from Woodlore. 
And lastly, you’ll want to use a shoehorn whenever you put on your shoes so that you don’t crush the heel counter. Abbeyhorn makes some really nice ones. For something more affordable, these basic metal ones will serve you fine, and if you’re ever in a pinch and find yourself without a shoehorn, try using your credit card or driver’s license. If you place it at the heel, just as you would with a shoehorn, your foot should slip in pretty easily.
Check back Wednesday for part two to this answer, where I’ll go over some stuff I think is nice to have, but not as essential as what’s mentioned above.

Q and Answer: What Shoe Care Products Should You Consider (Part One)

Lookyoungspeakold writes us to ask: I just watched the PTO episode on shoes and am now working on picking up some shoe care supplies. What things do you guys recommend?

It’s probably best to break this answer into parts, so you know what’s important to have, and what’s just nice to have. Today, we’ll cover the important stuff.

1. Leather conditioner: Leather needs to be conditioned every once in a while, otherwise it’ll dry out and crack. For this, Saphir Renovateur is commonly said to be the best, but I’ve gotten equally good results with Allen Edmonds’ Conditioner & Cleaner. Some say you shouldn’t mix conditioners and cleaners (just as you shouldn’t mix shampoo and conditioner), but I’ve used this stuff for years and haven’t seen any ill effects. If you’re worried about it, you can turn to Lexol, who sells them in separate bottles, or get Venetian cream.

For workboots, I really like Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP, which you can read about here, and if you have any exotics, Saphir makes a special conditioner called Reptan.

2. Polishes and Waxes: To hide scuffs and build a shine, you’ll need an assortment of polishes and waxes. If you want to maintain your shoes’ original color, use a polish that best approximates it or go one shade lighter. To build a slightly more antiqued look over time, go with something a touch darker. For the most part, try to avoid neutrals, as they can sometimes build a white flakey residue.

I use cream polish on all my shoes, but for any that need an extra layer of protection (e.g. winter boots) or a higher gloss finish (e.g. oxfords), I add a finishing layer of wax polish.

Again, Saphir here is often said to be the best, and if you’re a shoe aficionado, these can feel a bit more fancy to use. You can get them from The Hanger Project (one of our advertisers), Exquisite Trimmings, A Suitable Wardrobe, and Gentlemen’s Footwear (the last of which is offering a free Saphir chamois cloth with any $50+ purchase of shoe care products this week). If Saphir is too expensive for you, however, I’ve gotten excellent results from Meltonian cream polishes and Lincoln waxes.

3. Brushes: Obviously, to apply the creams and waxes, you’ll need some brushes. There’s some really nice stuff here by Edoya and Abbeyhorn, but they’re expensive. Check them out if you take a special interest in this stuff, but otherwise, know that you only really need a basic dauber and large horsehair brush, both of which you can buy for $5-15 from The Hanger Project and Allen Edmonds

4. Suede products: If you have suede shoes, you’ll want to get a couple of special products. First is a waterproofing spray, which will not only help protect your shoes from water, but also any stains that may come their way. A suede eraser can also be good for spot cleaning, and a suede brush is useful for rebuilding a nap. Suede brushes can come in crepe or wire. I really like the wire ones from Edoya, but Allen Edmonds has a much more affordable version for $6.50

5. Shoe trees and horns: Along with the leather conditioner, I think these last two products might be the most important to buy. First are cedar shoe trees, which you should always put into your shoes when you’re not wearing them. This will help maintain your shoes’ shape and minimize creases. You can buy them for about $11 a pair from Sierra Trading Post once you apply their DealFlyer coupons (they’re out of stock at the moment, but they’ll likely bring them back). Nordstrom Rack also sometimes has them in-store for about $12 a pair, and Jos A Bank will regularly do 3-for-1 deals. For boots, you’ll need something bigger to fill up the space. I recommend these from Woodlore.

And lastly, you’ll want to use a shoehorn whenever you put on your shoes so that you don’t crush the heel counter. Abbeyhorn makes some really nice ones. For something more affordable, these basic metal ones will serve you fine, and if you’re ever in a pinch and find yourself without a shoehorn, try using your credit card or driver’s license. If you place it at the heel, just as you would with a shoehorn, your foot should slip in pretty easily.

Check back Wednesday for part two to this answer, where I’ll go over some stuff I think is nice to have, but not as essential as what’s mentioned above.

Why Pay for Canvas?

As many readers know, suit jackets and sport coats mainly come in three types of construction: fused, half-canvassed, and fully-canvassed. A fused jacket will have a lightweight fusible interlining sandwiched in-between the two outer shell fabrics, and a canvassed one will have a canvas made from animal hair (usually horse or camel) mixed with either cotton or wool. Generally speaking, canvassed jackets will cost considerably more than fused ones. So why pay for them?

Well, one of the reasons is that a canvassed jacket will have a lot more three-dimensional shape. Animal hair can be molded using steam, heat, and pressure, much like how a woman’s hair can be shaped using a hot curling iron. With that shape, you get a much more beautiful garment. 

Take a look above. The top most photo is of Alan See with his lovely wife at the menswear trade show Pitti Uomo. He’s seen here wearing a three-piece suit by Liverano & Liverano, a bespoke tailoring house in Florence, Italy. Notice how his lapel line “blooms” as it moves from the buttoning point to his shoulders? It has a “roll” to it, rather than being pressed flat against his chest. Similarly, just below him are JefferyD and MostExerent, both of which also have nice, shapely lapels that “roll” near their buttoning points.

To understand how this is achieved, look at the bottommost photo above (also taken from JefferyD). Moving from left to right, the first material is haircloth, which is made from wiry horsetail strands. This is used to add shape to the chest and shoulders (ever put on a Tom Ford suit and feel like you’re wearing a prosthetic chest? This is because he puts in a ton of haircloth into his suits). The second material is wrapped haircloth, which is a softer, more affordable alternative. Next, we have a wool canvas (the brown material) and a fusible (the black material). These are added on top of the haircloth and extend from the shoulders to the hem (the haircloth is only in the chest). Notice that the brown wool canvas has a natural roll to it while the black fusible is limp. This natural roll is what gives those lapels their “bloom.” 

Of course, this isn’t to say that fused garments aren’t worth buying. They’re considerably more affordable, which is nice if you’re on a budget or if your tastes are still developing. It can take a long, long time for your tastes to settle and for you to develop an eye for what truly fits and flatters you the most. It would be a shame if you had to make your mistakes on much more expensive garments. 

If you have the money, however, and you feel confident in your choices, canvassed garments can be much more handsome. And once you own some, know how to best preserve their shape (after all, that’s what you paid for). Make sure your jackets aren’t smashed against each other in your closet and use hangers with wide, flared out shoulders. Our advertiser The Hanger Project sells some really nice ones, but if you want something more affordable, check out Wooden Hangers USA. Also, stay away from bad dry cleaners, as they can really press the life out of your jackets’ lapels, shoulders, and chests. I ship my stuff to RAVE FabriCare, but you can look for someone more local. Finally, be careful with garment steamers, and don’t hang your jackets in the bathroom while taking a shower. Steam will take out the wrinkles, it’s true, but it’ll also take out the shape. If that ever happens, you can send your jacket to a place that gives a good handpressing. That should be done every once in a while anyway, just so your jackets can maintain their form. 

(Photos via NY Mag, JefferyD, and MostExerent)

The Unnecessary but Useful Sleeve Board
Ironing is a pretty simple and straightforward task that only requires an ironing board and iron. However, I’ve found it’s useful to have three other items on hand: a spray bottle, a plastic bag, and a sleeve board. The spray bottle is useful to help soften up the fabric and get the fibers to relax. Your iron should also have this function, but from my experience, a spray bottle always works better. After you’ve lightly sprayed down a few shirts with water, roll them up, and stick them in a plastic bag. Then, as you iron each one-by-one, the others will soak a little, instead of dry up.
The third item – the sleeve board – is useful for ironing sleeves or getting to hard-to-reach places (it’s also great for pressing seams if you sew). It’s similar to an ironing board, but it’s smaller and narrower. This allows you to slip your sleeve through and rotate it after each side has been ironed. The benefit it doing is this way is that you don’t have to constantly adjust your sleeves in order to make sure two layers of fabric are constantly flat. It also means you don’t have to worry about ironing in sharp creases at the edge of your shirt.
You can buy sleeve boards at any number of places. Amazon has a bunch and Target sells a model. Someone even posted an online tutorial on how to make your own. I personally got mine from WAWAK, a company that mostly sells to people in the tailoring trade. Theirs is made from a very sturdy plywood, and both sides have a padded slipover cover. Should you ever damage these covers, WAWAK sells replacements.
The upside to their model is that one side is perfectly built for sleeves while the other side is good for trousers. Of course, if you use this for trousers or jacket sleeves, you’ll want to use a pressing cloth, which WAWAK also sells. The downside, however, is that it’s not foldable or collapsible when you store it away. Something to consider if you’re tight on space. 

The Unnecessary but Useful Sleeve Board

Ironing is a pretty simple and straightforward task that only requires an ironing board and iron. However, I’ve found it’s useful to have three other items on hand: a spray bottle, a plastic bag, and a sleeve board. The spray bottle is useful to help soften up the fabric and get the fibers to relax. Your iron should also have this function, but from my experience, a spray bottle always works better. After you’ve lightly sprayed down a few shirts with water, roll them up, and stick them in a plastic bag. Then, as you iron each one-by-one, the others will soak a little, instead of dry up.

The third item – the sleeve board – is useful for ironing sleeves or getting to hard-to-reach places (it’s also great for pressing seams if you sew). It’s similar to an ironing board, but it’s smaller and narrower. This allows you to slip your sleeve through and rotate it after each side has been ironed. The benefit it doing is this way is that you don’t have to constantly adjust your sleeves in order to make sure two layers of fabric are constantly flat. It also means you don’t have to worry about ironing in sharp creases at the edge of your shirt.

You can buy sleeve boards at any number of places. Amazon has a bunch and Target sells a model. Someone even posted an online tutorial on how to make your own. I personally got mine from WAWAK, a company that mostly sells to people in the tailoring trade. Theirs is made from a very sturdy plywood, and both sides have a padded slipover cover. Should you ever damage these covers, WAWAK sells replacements.

The upside to their model is that one side is perfectly built for sleeves while the other side is good for trousers. Of course, if you use this for trousers or jacket sleeves, you’ll want to use a pressing cloth, which WAWAK also sells. The downside, however, is that it’s not foldable or collapsible when you store it away. Something to consider if you’re tight on space. 

Closet Maintenance: Consider a “One in, One out” Policy
When I began thinking about my clothing purchases beyond “Hey I like that shirt,” and building a wardrobe thoughtfully, season by season, there were lots of holes to fill. Dozens of resources offer advice on how many suits, jackets, shirts, shoes, belts, jeans, sweaters, ties, watch bands, collar pins, camp caps, regatta-striped blazers, etc. etc. a man must own, and because acquiring cool stuff is fun, I quickly overdid it a little. (Celebrated illustrator and dandy Richard Merkin, pictured, would recommend at least a dozen sets of braces.) An occasional ebay selling binge or donation to Goodwill can dispose of the shirts that don’t quite fit or shoes on which I gambled and lost, and some treasured items eventually wear out beyond reasonable repair, but even so I continue accumulate stuff more quickly than I can realistically wear it out or tire of it.
Once you reach critical mass, whether that means enough stuff to make it to laundry day or enough to require a second storage unit for seasonal pieces (and who am I to judge), a policy that can prevent hoarding is “one in, one out.” For example, I have enough sweaters—basics; cotton, wool, cashmere; tasteful intarsia and an ugly Christmas sweater just in case. My sweater drawer is full. Should a top-quality, beautiful piece really strike me (say an Inis Meain or Inverallan), I can buy it; but only if I get rid of a sweater I already own.
Using the one in, one out policy makes editing a reasonable wardrobe easier. It cuts down on impulse purchases (i.e., do I really want to get rid of any sweaters in order to buy a cardigan on deep sale?), eases seasonal transitions (less stuff to store or pull out of storage), and helps keep a closet refreshed rather than just bursting.
-Pete

Closet Maintenance: Consider a “One in, One out” Policy

When I began thinking about my clothing purchases beyond “Hey I like that shirt,” and building a wardrobe thoughtfully, season by season, there were lots of holes to fill. Dozens of resources offer advice on how many suits, jackets, shirts, shoes, belts, jeans, sweaters, ties, watch bands, collar pins, camp caps, regatta-striped blazers, etc. etc. a man must own, and because acquiring cool stuff is fun, I quickly overdid it a little. (Celebrated illustrator and dandy Richard Merkin, pictured, would recommend at least a dozen sets of braces.) An occasional ebay selling binge or donation to Goodwill can dispose of the shirts that don’t quite fit or shoes on which I gambled and lost, and some treasured items eventually wear out beyond reasonable repair, but even so I continue accumulate stuff more quickly than I can realistically wear it out or tire of it.

Once you reach critical mass, whether that means enough stuff to make it to laundry day or enough to require a second storage unit for seasonal pieces (and who am I to judge), a policy that can prevent hoarding is “one in, one out.” For example, I have enough sweaters—basics; cotton, wool, cashmere; tasteful intarsia and an ugly Christmas sweater just in case. My sweater drawer is full. Should a top-quality, beautiful piece really strike me (say an Inis Meain or Inverallan), I can buy it; but only if I get rid of a sweater I already own.

Using the one in, one out policy makes editing a reasonable wardrobe easier. It cuts down on impulse purchases (i.e., do I really want to get rid of any sweaters in order to buy a cardigan on deep sale?), eases seasonal transitions (less stuff to store or pull out of storage), and helps keep a closet refreshed rather than just bursting.

-Pete

Reweaving Holes

Want to see something neat?

If you ever develop a hole in your clothes – whether from a moths, pulled threads, or just who knows what – you can sometimes have the fabric rewoven by a specialist. Reweaving is what you think it is: repairing a garment by filling in the hole instead of patching it up, ironing on a fusible, or stitching the cloth over on itself. Unlike those techniques, reweaving will be near invisible if done well.

I recently had a blue sweater rewoven by The French American Reweaving Company. The first photo above shows the area with the hole. It was maybe around the size of a pea, and looked like it would get worse if I didn’t take care of it soon. So after noticing it, I sent it to New York to be repaired and just got the garment back last week. You can see the results in the second photo. It’s almost impossible to tell where the damage was. 

Not every hole can be repaired like this, of course, and much depends on the type of fabric you have. Silks and cottons are generally not repairable, and certain synthetics can be tough. Knits are also easier than wovens, and solid colors are easier than fabrics with intricate designs. That said, almost anything can be repaired – sweaters, sport coats, suit jackets, trousers, etc. It just depends on the fabric and kind of damage at hand.

To know if something you have can be repaired, send it to The French American Reweaving Company for an assessment. Ron Moore, the owner of the company, is an absolute perfectionist and will give you an honest opinion of what he thinks can be done. His company has been in business since the 1930s and he’s been in the trade since the 1960s. That’s a lot of experience. Prices aren’t cheap (I paid $50 for my repair) and the turnaround time is quite variable (Ron said they can usually send things back within ten days, but my job took two months since it was harder to source the yarn). Still, if you have a favorite sport coat, sweater or pair of trousers, this is an infinitely better than what your local alterations tailor can probably do for you.